From the seventh floor of the Ozone Manay technology park in Bangalore, Binny Bansal’s business is booming. The brains behind online retailer Flipkart, Binny is a link in the backbone that created one of India’s most successful upstart stories.
The ecommerce mogul, who co-founded his fledging firm with less than $7,000, can barely keep up with demand from Indian citizens craving everything from iPhones to perfumery. His ecommerce website is bursting at its virtual seams, such is demand.
Flipkart has already raised $210 million in investment capital, and raked in $1 billion in sales last year, the first Indian online retailer to achieve such gross revenue. The industry expects the business to announce another substantial round of funding this month, all being well.
“Flipkart has changed the way people shop in India,” said Binny from his Bangalore base when announcing the latest round of funding. “We met our GMV run rate of $1 billion, a year before target, reinforcing our leadership position,” he added, oozing confidence.
The business is new, founded in 2007, but its growth has been propelled by clever use of big data and analytics – something that ecommerce sites, telecoms companies and even pharma firms are desperately trying to replicate.
Many businesses are trying to tap into this new data-driven revolution. None more so than in India, where firms like Snapdeal, an online marketplace co-founded by a Wharton graduate, and Bharti Airtel, the listed telecoms giant, are raking in revenues thanks to clever use of large sets of data and analytics technology.
“Ecommerce is pioneering the use of big data and analytics in India,” says K Suyamprabha, vice president of technology services at Congruent Solutions, an IT solutions corporation. The firm has operations in the UK, US, Singapore and India. Clients include Microsoft and Oracle.
MBAs will care about Flipkart’s cyberworld success. Many of them are trying to take advantage of the explosion of big data-related careers. Businesses, particularly in India, are hiring everything from business solution architects to chief data officers.
Flipkart, once a promising pretender, has ballooned into a mammoth operation with about 3000 employees. This is propped up by a spree of recent acquisitions. The firm is advertising for a plethora of senior finance roles in Bangalore, as well as product management positions.
Deepa Mani, assistant professor of the information systems group at the Indian School of Business, says MBAs are increasingly in demand from companies hiring for cloud technology and big data roles.
“As companies seek help with integrating new technologies in their business strategies, we find significant demand for these skills,” says Professor Deepa.
At ISB, India’s highest-ranking business school, 40% of consulting jobs taken by students were in technology. “Also, in the last two years, we've seen companies and consulting firms seeking to hire for explicit roles in business analytics,” she adds.
Demand for MBA graduates in India is being driven by increased spending on technology, with a focus on cloud tech and data. IT spending in India will increase by 23% CAGR to over $43 billion this year, according to UKTI data.
“2014 is considered to be a year of transition and change – there’s a focus on big data and social media,” says Sriram Rajaraman, a trade and investment adviser at the UKTI’s India office.
A recent study by Nasscom, a trade association which represents the Indian software industry, predicts big data to be worth around $0.5 billion by 2015 in India, growing to $1.3 billion by 2018, says Sriram.
The fire is fuelled by high levels of internet and smartphone penetration. There are around 200 million internet users in India currently and the number could grow to 500 million by 2015, according McKinsey, the consultancy.
Since 2007, the rate at which citizens have adopted mobile phones has been at between 18% and 20%, says K Suyamprabha from Congruent Solutions. “This is unpredicted in any geography of the world.”
She adds: “This is the background of why big data has become relevant for India. This data exposition is forcing the industries to start using analytics [and] to use data to gain meaningful insights.”
Revenues of ecommerce companies, then, could triple over the next three years to about $8 billion, according to Crisil Research, a unit of Mumbai-based ratings firm Crisil Ltd.
Revenue of Indian ecommerce firms has already surged 56% annually between 2008 and 2013, according to the firm.
This has translated into massive employer demand for MBAs – as much as a 50% increase at ISB among ecommerce start-ups, says Professor Deepa.
“Hiring by ecommerce firms and start-ups has seen a rapid increase over the last couple of years,” she adds.
Traditional MBA roles such as marketing and finance are being transformed by technological innovations.
In India, the IT functions have transformed from a support vehicle or cost centre to a key strategic asset that drives value.
“As a result, not only are there more opportunities in the IT sector but also companies are seeking MBAs who can integrate cutting edge technologies with traditional business functions such as marketing and finance,” says Professor Deepa.
She adds that ISB’s elective courses in business analytics have seen a significant uptake in the last couple of years. The business school also runs an analytics certificate program, which has proved just as popular.
K Suyamprabha says that analytics has helped the telecoms players grow leaps and bounds in India. Because the industry is dynamic, it has been able to adapt to emerging trends more quickly. “It’s no wonder analytics become the backbone of telecoms industry.”
Bharti Airtel which is a stalwart of the mobile phone market, for example, has used predicted diagnostics to identify a customized plan for each of their 100 million subscribers, whom are making about three-billion calls per day, she says.
The company is hiring a crop of experienced professionals for marketing, sales and branding roles this year.
For big data and analytics careers, MBAs will see the value in India’s booming tech sectors.
However it will prove challenging, says Mohit Beotra, director of brand and media at Bharti Airtel. “You are faced by a competitive environment pretty much in every market that we operate in, which few marketers would face in the course of their brand management or marketing stints.
“In some places you're competing with 13 other brands... all of them very competitive, very active, and keen to make a mark on the consumer.”